Mill-Qamar Sal-Qabar

A recital of works by Alexander Vella Gregory

Mill-Qamar sal-Qabar (From the Moon to the Grave) is a song cycle for soprano and piano written by Alex Vella Gregory, which brings together different Maltese literary texts from the Arab Period till the Second World War. This works consists of eighth songs by different authors, some of which are not well known. The title, Mill-Qamar sal-Qabar reflects the two important historical events that frame these poems. The Moon is a symbol of Islamic culture, which opens this cycle, whilst the grave refers to the Second World War which cause both physical and psychological deaths in Maltese culture. The fact that the first poem is also an epitaph, brings the whole work to a full circle.

The works were chosen not necessarily for their literary value, but for their musicality and historical relevance. It-Talba ta’ Majmuna (The Prayer of Majmuna) is in itself a celebrated archaeological treasure and also evidence of a refined Arabic culture. This is the only work which is presented in translation (by Sir Temi Żammit) as it was originally written in Arabic.

The famous Kantilena is not only the oldest surviving Maltese text but also a work of great sophistication. On the other hand, Mejju Ġie bil-Ward u Żahar (May has come with Roses and Blossoms) sings the Grandmaster’s praises and pays lip-service to the Knights of Malta. Tliet Għanjiet bil-Malti (Three Maltese Songs) shows influences of the Enlightenment with its simple language and interest in popular rustic wisdom.

Poems like Binti Peppa Isma’ Minni (My daughter Peppa heed my words) and Għanjiet (Songs) are of a more popular origin, but they do betray an increase in national consciousness that would eventually lead to Independence. The first presents a mother warning her daughter against marrying an Englishman, whereas the second one is a collection of quatrains strung together to form a humorous sketch of a flamboyant singer.

By the early 20th century poets like Ġuże Muscat Azzopardi were at the forefront of an artistic and political movement that would eventually lead to Independence. X’Irridu u Ma Rridux (What We Want and Don’t Want) is an anti-German poem that is both a display of loyalty towards the British and also an appeal to maintain political promises like keeping Italian as a principal language and not raising taxes.

The work ends with X’Għandu Jaħseb Kulħadd (What Everyone Should Think) a poem by the controversial writer Manwel Dimech. Unlike a lot of Dimech’s poetry, this poem is not patriotic or political at all. Instead it is a short personal reflection on the duty of every individual to seek learning to better himself. His activism would lead him into trouble with the authorities and he would die in exile in Alexandria shortly before the Second World War. 


Miriam Cauchi, soprano

Miriam Cauchi is a firmly established Maltese soprano, making a name for herself both in her native country and overseas. Graduating with full honours from the Sofia State Music Academy under the tuition of Prof Blagovesta Dobreva in 1997, she furthered her studies in Milan with Juliette Bisazza Zanni and attended master classes with Magda Olivero in Barcelona. She is the recipient of the Gheorghi Slatev Cherkin Competition and the Bulgarian XIV National Competition Svetoslav Obretenov. Possessing a rich, clear and velvety voice that enables her to tackle a wide range of repertoire from Italian bel canto opera, oratorio, to lieder and contemporary works; Miriam has performed extensively in Malta, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Bulgaria, and the USA.

Miriam Cauchi is also very much in demand for recitals with pianoforte and chamber ensembles. She is a consummate interpreter of lieder by composers as diverse as Rachmaninov, Dvořák, Fauré, Grieg, Liszt, Gershwin, and Richard Strauss. She is a major ambassador of Maltese vocal music, singing and recording important compositions by Abos, Camillieri, Diacono, Isouard, Vassallo, Vella and Zerafa. Her operatic repertoire includes L’Elisir d’Amore (Adina), Lucia di Lammermoor (Lucia), Pagliacci (Nedda), La Boheme (Mimi), Le Villi (Anna), Suor Angelica (Suor Angelica), Turandot (Liù), Rigoletto (Gilda), I Capuleti e I Montecchi (Gulietta), La Cambiale di Matrimonio (Fanny). Sacred, orchestral and chamber works include include Handel’s Messiah, Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Abos’s Stabat Mater, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Mozart’s Mass in C, Vassallo’s Requiem, Lloyd Weber’s Requiem, Strauss’ Vier Letzte Lieder and Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5.

On the 13th of December 2009 Miriam Cauchi was appointed to the National Order of Merit – M.O.M.

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Alexander Vella Gregory, composer and pianist

Alexander Vella Gregory was born in Malta in 1984. He has studied piano with  Paul Borg and Joanne Camilleri, and obtained a Fellowship of the London College of Music (FLCM) diploma in 2013. In 2002, he won the Ian Tomlin Napier/Malta Music Scholarship which enabled him to pursue a B.Mus(Hons) degree in composition at the Ian Tomlin School of Music, Napier University, Edinburgh where he graduated in July 2006 with honours. He is active as a composer pianist, accompanist and teacher. 

Alexander has performed in many venues both in Malta and abroad, including Edinburgh, Vienna, Italy and Washington DC. Alex Vella Gregory is also very active as a composer, and his works have been performed in Malta, London,  Berlin, Paris, Edinburgh, Vienna, Frankfurt, Prague, Finland and the USA.

In 2015 two songs from his song cycle Mill-Qamar sal-Qabar were recorded by leading Maltese soprano Miriam Cauchi for her album Riflessi. Another set of songs, this time from the song cycle Verita, were also recorded that same year by soprano Gillian Zammit, mezzo Clare Ghigo and harpist Britt Arend as part of an MPO project.

He is also active in several research projects that focus on the preservation and development of musical heritage including work with the M3p Foundation and Spazju Kreattiv on the work of Charles Clews and Radju Muskettieri and Stage Commandos.

Alexander is currently working on a Phd in Music Composition with Edinburgh Napier University. Alexander is also the Artistic Director and a founding member of the Cappella Sanctae Catharinae, Malta’s only male choir. He is a Trustee of the Ian Tomlin Malta Edinburgh Music Scholarship Fund, and is also currently a board member for St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity.

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